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J Sex Med. 2007 Jul;4(4 Pt 1):917-29.

Changes in sexual functioning associated with duloxetine, escitalopram, and placebo in the treatment of patients with major depressive disorder.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA.



Depression and antidepressant therapy have been associated with sexual dysfunction in short-term and point-prevalence trials.


This report describes effects of duloxetine and escitalopram on sexual functioning during acute and long-term treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD).


In this 8-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, adult outpatients with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV)-defined MDD were randomized to duloxetine 60 mg/day (N = 273; 173 female), escitalopram 10 mg/day (N = 274; 186 female), or placebo (N = 137; 87 female). After the first 8 weeks of treatment, dose increases were permitted to optimize treatment.


The 14-item Changes in Sexual Functioning Questionnaire (CSFQ) was used to assess sexual functioning.


Of the 114 patients who did not meet total CSFQ score criteria for global sexual dysfunction at baseline (duloxetine, N = 51; escitalopram, N = 39; placebo, N = 24), the incidence of treatment-emergent sexual dysfunction was significantly higher for escitalopram compared with placebo at 4 and 8 weeks, and significantly higher compared with duloxetine at 4 weeks. At 8 weeks, the incidence of treatment-emergent sexual dysfunction was 17/51 (33.3%) for duloxetine-treated patients; 19/39 (48.7%) for escitalopram-treated patients; and 4/24 (16.7%) for placebo-treated patients (P = 0.01 escitalopram vs. placebo; P = 0.13 duloxetine vs. placebo). After 12 weeks, no significant differences were observed between active drugs. At 8 months, the incidence of treatment-emergent sexual dysfunction was 33.3% for duloxetine, 43.6% for escitalopram, and 25.0% for placebo. Regardless of treatment, patients who achieved remission of MDD showed improvement in global sexual functioning, whereas worsening was observed for patients who did not achieve remission (P < 0.001). Discontinuation rates for sexual side effects did not differ between duloxetine (N = 2) and escitalopram (N = 7) (P = 0.07).


Short-term treatment demonstrated a higher incidence of treatment-emergent sexual dysfunction with escitalopram compared with duloxetine and placebo. After 12 weeks, there were no statistically significant differences between drugs; however, MDD outcome (regardless of treatment) had a significant impact on improvement in global sexual functioning.

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